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Is Pornography Victimless?

What Would You Say?

You’re in a conversation and someone says, “You may not like porn, but it’s just victimless entertainment.” What would you say? Pornography is big business. Just how big is hard to know because most companies are privately held, but most estimates range from $6 to $15 Billion dollars a year.  Some are as high as $97 Billion a year.  By comparison, the NFL had revenue of $14 B in 2018 while the NBA had $7.4 Billion in revenue that same year.  Part of the reason it’s such big business is that so many people believe porn is victimless entertainment. But is that true? No. And here are three reasons why. Porn builds tolerance for violence toward women Not all porn features physical violence, but the vast majority of porn—violent or not—portrays men as powerful and in charge; while women are submissive and obedient. This impacts what men and women view as “normal”. In 2016, a team of researchers looked at twenty-two studies and concluded that, “individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression.” Simply put, porn encourages viewers to view sexual violence favorably. One study found that 95% of victims of violence in pornography responded in a neutral or positive way, creating the impression that violence is desirable or, at a minimum, neutral. Porn not only encourages exploitation, porn depends on exploitation. Which leads to the second point. Porn is not always consensual Defenders of violent and degrading porn say it’s ok because consent is given, but that’s often not true. Child pornography is frequently discovered on porn sites, and child porn, by definition, can’t be consensual. Pimps and sex-traffickers often use porn as a way to initiate girls into a life of sex-slavery. Some porn producers have admitted in court to luring women into porn by telling them they were signing up for modeling jobs. Once they were lured, the girls are pressured into doing porn and promised that it would only be shown to private collectors. Of course none of that was true. Despite the deception, porn producers always had proof that the girls had consented. And that’s just one way porn producers lie to women to get their consent. Former porn star Alexandra Read once described a scene she was part of this way. “I’ve never received a beating like that before in my life. I have permanent scars up and down the backs of my thighs. It was all things that I had consented to, but I didn’t know quite the brutality of what was about to happen to me until I was in it.” Some porn may be consensual, but as long as the industry exists, abuse will be prevalent. Which leads to the third point. Porn is directly connected to sex trafficking. Whenever coercion and lying is involved, porn becomes a form of sex trafficking because men make money by coercing girls to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. That’s what sex trafficking is. But that’s just the start. Porn also fuels trafficking. Exposure to pornography has been shown to make viewers less compassionate toward victims of sexual violence and exploitation everywhere. And this makes sense. If someone uses depictions of exploitation as a form of entertainment, exploitation stops bothering them. Also, trafficking victims are required to watch porn to learn what they’ll be expected to do. For victims of sex trafficking, porn becomes reality. Porn even creates risks for children who don’t watch it. A child growing up in a home where pornography is regularly consumed is far more likely to be trafficked at some point in his or her life. The fact is, porn has many victims. From women in porn, to women in relationships with porn users, to girls in homes where porn is regularly consumed, porn leaves a trail of victims in its wake. So next time someone says porn is victimless, remember these three things. Porn builds tolerance for violence toward women: Porn encourages men to be less troubled by sexual violence and more likely to engage in it. Porn is not always consensual: The porn industry regularly uses coercion and deceit to lure women and girls into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do. Porn is directly connected to sex trafficking. Not only does porn inspire what happens to victims of trafficking, girls who are around porn are more likely to end up as victims. We can all do better.

For more on the connection between pornography, abuse, and sex trafficking, see:

Layden, M. A. (2010) Pornography And Violence: A New Look At The Research. In Stoner, J. & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost Of Pornography: A Collection Of Papers (Pp. 57-68). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.

Wright, P.J., Tokunaga, R. S., & Kraus, A. (2016). A Meta-Analysis Of Pornography Consumption And Actual Acts Of Sexual Aggression In General Population Studies. Journal Of Communication, 66(1), 183-205. Doi:10.1111/Jcom.12201

Zillmann And Bryant, “Effects Of Massive Exposure To Pornography” In Pornography And Sexual Aggression, Eds. Neil M. Malamuth And Edward Donerstein (New York: Academic Press, 1984)

J. V. P. Check And T. H. Guloien, “The Effects Of Repeated Exposure To Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, And Erotica,” In Pornography: Recent Research, Interpretations, And Policy Considerations, Eds. D. Zillmann And J. Bryant (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1989).

Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW, Ph.D. Interview || Truth About Porn [Video File]. (2016, December 28). Retrieved From Https://Vimeo.Com/190317258

Countryman-Roswurm, Karen (2017). Primed For Perpetration: Porn And The Perpetuation Of Sex Trafficking. Guest Blog For FTND, Retrieved From Https://Fightthenewdrug.Org/Fighting-Sex-Trafficking-Absolutely-Includes-Fighting-Pornography/,wielded%20within%20the%20sex%20industry.

For more on pornography being used to initiate victims into sex-slavery, see:

Peters, R. W., Lederer, L. J., And Kelly, S. (2012). The Slave And The Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking And Pornography. In M. Mattar & J. Braunmiller (Eds.) Journal Of Human Rights And Civil Society 5: 1-21. Retrieved From Http://Www.Protectionproject.Org/Wp-Content/Uploads/2012/11/TPP-J-HR-Civ-Socy_Vol-5_2012-W-Cover.Pdf; U.S. Attorney’s Office For The Western District Of Missouri. (2010). Woman Tortured As Slave, Victim Of Trafficking And Forced Labor. Press Release, September 9. Retrieved From Http://Www.Justice.Gov/Usao/Mw/News2010/Bagley.Ind.Htm

For more on how women are manipulated by promises of modeling jobs, see:

Collective Shout (2014, July 24) The Sex Factor: Mainstreaming And Normalising The Abuse And Exploitation Of Women.

For more on the industry revenue, see: